Liz gazing at the far border of the San Carlos Reservation

Last week, our Apache friend Emery invited us to his peridot mine in, of all place, Peridot, AZ.


Peridot is located near the town of San Carlos, on the San Carlos Reservation. The Apache are fond of calling it “America’s longest continuously operating concentration camp“.

Peridot is pronounced Per-i-dot by the locals. The gemstone, peridot, can be pronounced either per-i-dot, or per-i-dough.

Interesting vein of darker peridot running through the big vein

The White Eyes (derogatory term used to describe the white race) forced the Apache onto this parcel of land that had no resources the white man wanted. No gold, no silver. There is a little water. Most of the year…

Emery and Liz

Peridot is a precious gemstone. It is very brittle, and it riddles the ground below the Peridot Mesa on the reservation. 85% if the world’s peridot is found here. Any Apache that resides on the San Carlos Reservation is free to stake a claim, as long as the tribal elders concur. Emery has a very valuable claim, and has ten men working it daily. Once in a while he will rent heavy equipment to break up ground, and once in a blue moon he can get his hands on dynamite and “have fun”. But most of the work is with a 20-pound sledge and a crow bar.

Emery at his mine

Emery adores Liz. His mother swears that Liz was her daughter many years ago. Emery is very laid back. He mines the peridot, and sends it off to be cut and polished. He then crafts necklaces and bracelets, rings and rosary beads (Emery is Lutheran).

Emery’s mine

I was surprised to see as many churches on the reservation as I did – every denomination was represented.  The Apache are very religious, and have incorporated their own mythology into Christianity, or vice versa…

The peridot vein runs anywhere from 4 feet below the surface to 15 feet below the surface of the mesa.He was gracious and told us to take any rock we found that we liked. He handed me two large specimens. One was a standard piece of basalt with a vein of peridot running through it. The other had a black stripe between the peridot veins. The black rock is unique in that it is only found on the San Carlos reservation and one other place not on earth – Mars. NASA actually visited the mine in recent years after the discovery of this rock, which makes up to 60% of Mars surface.

Photo by Emery

Emery took us to a friend’s mine adjacent to his. He insisted I climb into the pit so he could take my picture. The ground was literally littered with peridot. The sand was green.

This area is actually inside a defunct volcano, and lava and volcanic rock was evident all around.

All in all, it was a very cool way to spend a Sunday morning. Not too many White Eyes get to explore this part of the reservation. I would not recommend going without an Apache guide. Liz and I are privileged to know some wonderful people.


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